Brilliant Experiences, Channel by Channel

To build stronger relationships, brands need to ensure that they’re communicating in ways that speak to each customer as an individual.

Every messaging channel (email, push notifications, in-app messages, and more) serves a different marketing need—making it essential for brands to embrace channel expansion to match the appropriate messaging channel (or combination of channels) to each person’s place in the customer journey.

Brilliant Experiences, Channel by Channel
Brilliant Experiences, Channel by Channel

In this guide, Brilliant Experiences, Channel by Channel, we’ll investigate how you can provide that relevant, personalized experience by arming you with all the Dos and Don’ts for every channel you use to connect with customers, as well as exclusive data on the ideal outreach frequency for each major channel. Read on to get up to speed on:

  • Email
  • Mobile channels (such as SMS, push notifications, and in-app messages)
  • Web channels (such as in-browser messages and web push notifications)
  • Over-the-Top (OTT) messaging
  • And more!

Content Summary

Introduction: Providing brilliant, relevant experiences
Email: Create a voice in the crowd
Emails that stand out—for the right reasons
Mobile channels: SMS and immediate connections
More on mobile channels: The big push
The many flavors of in-app messages
Mobile content cards: dynamic and persistent
Web messaging: Connect on the desktop
OTT (Over-The-Top) Media Platforms: A cohesive, cross-device experience
OTT (Over-The-Top) Messaging Platforms: A huge (and growing) user base
Message frequency: All channels aren’t created equal
Conclusion: Embrace Cross-Channel Messaging

Introduction: Providing brilliant, relevant experiences

In this guide, we’ll explore how you can provide the most relevant, personalized experiences to your customers and arm you with all the Dos and Don’ts for the following channels:

  • Email
  • Mobile Channels
  • Web Channels
  • Over-The-Top (OTT) Messaging

Personalization initiatives can deliver significant value, including on average 10-30% revenue uplift and higher customer acquisition rates and engagement. But the key is that they must be done right. – Julien Boudet, Partner, McKinsey Source: McKinsey press release, May 2018

To build strong relationships, brands need to ensure that they’re communicating in ways that speak to each customer as an individual. Personalization isn’t a nice-to-have: It’s now a must-have method to cut through the marketing noise and drive engagement. Your customer data is the secret sauce for personalization and for expanding campaigns effectively to new channels. Every messaging channel (email, push notifications, in-app messages, and more) serves a different marketing need—and every channel has its sweet spot for adding some of that data sauce in a way that grabs attention.

There’s a catch. Even as your customers crave relevant, personalized communications, privacy rules are locking down how you can use personal data. Thanks in part to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and recent scandals about the use of personal data to influence elections, brands have to think very carefully about where and how they deploy personalization. Today’s forward-looking brands view consumer consent as a big plus for marketing; after all, every great relationship needs to be a two-sided one.

Email: Create a voice in the crowd

Done right, email is a conversation—customers tell email senders who they are and what they value through their engagement behavior, and senders respond with increasingly relevant, personalized campaigns. The challenge: Thanks to a plague of spam messages in the 1990s, email providers have become vigilant about ensuring that their users aren’t overwhelmed with irrelevant or unwanted messages, forcing brands to be mindful about how (and to whom) they send emails. Get it right by prioritizing deliverability best practices like dedicated subdomains alongside customer-first practices like message personalization.

Not sure if your email outreach is welcome? Ask! Test your messages, and pay attention to the signals your customers give. Set clear expectations about what you’re going to send, what value you’ll provide, and how often you’re going to send. – Andrew Barrett, Director of Email Deliverability, Braze

Research by Braze shows there’s a 45% lift in engagement when using email marketing compared with a control group in which users receive no messaging.

Emails that stand out—for the right reasons

If you want to connect with customers using email, your messages have to pop. They need to be personal and they need to be responsive, containing content that is meaningful to each customer. Using tools like the open-source AMP for Email, it’s now possible to send emails that support in-message interactions—allowing recipients to theoretically swipe through dating profiles, complete and submit surveys, or schedule an appointment without ever clicking through to a web page or app.

Emails that stand out—for the right reasons
Emails that stand out—for the right reasons

What Makes Modern Email Shine

Great email experiences don’t just happen. These tools and tactics are just what you need to take your message to the next level:

  • IP warming: Win over internet service providers (ISPs) and maximize how many emails get delivered by gradually scaling up send volumes and demonstrating that recipients are interested in hearing from you on this channel.
  • Real-time personalization: Leverage tools like Connected Content to pull of-the-moment information about each email recipient from outside sources via APIs and seamlessly insert it into your emails.
  • Smart testing: Establishing healthy practices will help you fine-tune your messaging, subject lines, CTAs, imagery, and more to find what works (and ditch what doesn’t).

Braze Connected Content can boost email conversions by 114%. Source: Braze Proprietary Data

Mobile channels: SMS and immediate connections

Customers who give you their phone number trust you to treat it with respect. With that number in hand, you have the opportunity “to build an immediate, intimate connection with that user.

While consumers often associate SMS with communications between friends and family, it can be a powerful tool for brands.

When to use SMS

  • Sharing critical info: Think delayed flights and upcoming medical appointments—or real-time updates on when a table at that hot new restaurant will be free
  • Updating users about transactions: Think alerting shoppers to the real-time status of an order.
  • Sending mobile-only exclusives: Think about sending exclusive codes or first dibs on new products to reward customers.
  • Starting a two-way convo: Think leveraging this channel’s support for shortcodes to allow customers to reply.

What’s the appeal of SMS to marketers?

  • Global reach: In certain global markets like APAC and Africa, SMS is the standard digital communications medium, rather than email.
  • Two-way interactions: Messages can kick off conversations between customers and brands, supporting a truly interactive back and forth between the two sides.
  • Super-high open rates: Recipients rarely pass over SMS messages, which have a 98% open rate.
What’s the appeal of SMS to marketers?
What’s the appeal of SMS to marketers?

More on mobile channels: The big push

That buzzing in your pocket is the versatile push notification— whether it’s short and sweet or enriched with images, action buttons, and other advanced functionality, the push is super-helpful at getting customers to open apps. That’s why they’re a powerful tool for boosting revenue and re-engaging customers who haven’t interacted with your brand lately. But push campaigns can also scare off customers when they’re sent thoughtlessly or too often (so don’t be that person).

Doing push properly

  • Provide a warm welcome: See stronger engagement among new users by supplementing in-app messages with push notifications.
  • Win back old friends: Use a cross-channel messaging campaign to reach inactive customers with a blend of email and push notifications.
  • Take advantage of timeliness: Message customers about the weather or a big holiday sale.

What happens if you’re too pushy?

Why not push all the time? Well, plenty of people choose not to enable push, so they won’t see your notifications. Many others will opt-out of push notifications or uninstall an app if you pester them too much with irrelevant messages.

What happens if you’re too pushy?
What happens if you’re too pushy?

191% lift in engagement with push notifications versus no messages at all. Source: Braze Proprietary Data

The many flavors of in-app messages

In-app messages are notifications built to reach people when they’re using your mobile app (or, in the case of the web version— which are known as in-browser messages—your website). In-app messages allow you to customize the experience with GIFs, clickable buttons, and more to make messages feel more interactive and engaging.

The many flavors of in-app messages
The many flavors of in-app messages

130% lift in engagement with in-app messages versus no messages at all. Source: Braze Proprietary Data

In-app messages: the good and the bad

When they work well

  • Onboarding: Test and optimize different welcome flows without having to involve your engineering team.
  • Tailor-made targeting: Personalize the app experience for every user, instead of one-size-fits-all outreach.
  • Filling engagement gaps: When paired with push or email, in-app messages play nice with other channels to reach a wider audience.

When they don’t

  • Trying to win back customers: For reaching a disengaged user, you need a channel that goes beyond the app, like push and email.
  • Giving gifts: To deliver coupons or loyalty rewards that customers can use later, you’ll be better off with a less ephemeral channel like email.

Mobile content cards: dynamic and persistent

Ever swipe away a push notification only to search for it later? Content Cards solve this problem. These cards serve up dynamic, persistent content that users can find in their apps when they need them—so no more missed promos.

Where to use Content Cards

  • Notification centers: Centralize the updates that are most important to customers and ensure they can always find them.
  • Promotions feed: Motivate customers to shop with a dynamic flow of new offers targeted to them as an individual based on their in-app engagement.
  • Onboarding and new features: Build a feed of tips to make the new-user experience fun.

Choose your Content Cards

There are three standard types of cards that can sit in a feed:

Choose your Content Cards
Choose your Content Cards

Web messaging: Connect on the desktop

At their most basic, web channels are designed to reach people on the desktop or mobile web. But keep in mind that web messaging is a category, made up of these channels:

  • Web push notifications: Think push notifications, but for the web. Just like messages for mobile apps, these are built for short, urgent communications, but support rich content like images.
  • In-browser messages: Like mobile in-app messages, this channel lets you create rich, interactive messaging for people currently browsing your website.
  • When to use web push and in-browser messages: These channels are built for different goals. When you need to reach out, web push is the answer. In-browser messages, however, allow you to nudge people already on your website to take action.
  • Content Cards play well with the web: Use this versatile messaging channel to customize content for your website. Web Content Cards help you keep the conversation going wherever customers decide to engage.
Content Cards play well with the web
Content Cards play well with the web

OTT (Over-The-Top) Media Platforms: A cohesive, cross-device experience

In the marketing world, OTT is a technology that goes “over-the-top” of proprietary platforms such as messaging services like WhatsApp, or media streaming platforms like Roku. While each of these technologies impact different industries, they’re major centers for high-value consumer engagement.

OTT (Over-The-Top) Media Platforms: A cohesive, cross-device experience
OTT (Over-The-Top) Media Platforms: A cohesive, cross-device experience

If your brand has customers using OTT media platforms, it’s essential to get a full portrait of what their engagement looks like there. Braze does that by offering tvOS and Roku SDKs that can seamlessly collect data from these devices to trigger responsive second-screen messages—via push notification or email—based on behavior.

Use this channel to…

  • Make timely content recommendations: Send messages like a push notification to extend a binge session.
  • Support cross-device experiences: Avoid device-based silos by pulling data from OTT media platforms into a single, cohesive user profile and leverage it to drive highly relevant messaging.

OTT (Over-The-Top) Messaging Platforms: A huge (and growing) user base

With platforms like Facebook Messenger sporting billions of users, OTT messaging platforms are an incredibly tempting target. Thankfully, OTT business messaging, also known simply as “chat,” supports automated one-to-one customer/brand interactions, usually at a lower cost than SMS.

Use this channel to…

  • Reduce friction for transactional use cases: Offer customers who are highly engaged in messaging platforms the ability to receive transactional messages to give them the information they need without forcing them to open another app.
  • Reach users in particular regions: In regions outside of North America like APAC, OTT messaging platforms one of the best ways to reach users who may not use email or other traditional channels
OTT (Over-The-Top) Messaging Platforms: A huge (and growing) user base
OTT (Over-The-Top) Messaging Platforms: A huge (and growing) user base

More than 80% of business owners in markets from Brazil to India use WhatsApp Business Messaging in their customer communications. SOURCE: WHATSAPP PRESS RELEASE

Message frequency: All channels aren’t created equal

Get the most opportunity out of your messaging by setting these “just right” targets for each channel.

As you take advantage of more channels, keep a close eye on the number of messages you’re sending each customer—both in general, but also for each channel. The right frequency is going to vary by industry, brand, or by user segment. But there’s an optimal messaging frequency for your specific users and the right cross-channel send rate will drive stronger engagement across all channels, platforms, and devices.

Methodology

This analysis spans approximately 151 billion users and 534 billion messages sent over the past 2 years. These messages come from 674 companies across 20 different industries. The data were aggregated by month to reveal the average monthly send frequency of any given company that sent at least 1 monthly message per user within each industry, calculated as total messages divided by total users. Industry rates and user counts are aggregated monthly by the company to create even comparison periods.

Optimal frequency vs. average frequency, channel by channel
Optimal frequency vs. average frequency, channel by channel

Conclusion: Embrace Cross-Channel Messaging

Brands today are living in a cross-device, cross-platform, cross-channel world— and so are all their customers. That means there’s no single messaging channel that can reach everybody effectively. Each one has its unique strengths, but used in a vacuum, their positive impact is limited.

Research conducted by Braze has found that while sending messages in a single channel leads to a 179% increase in engagement, compared to users who received no messages, leveraging cross-channel messaging can lead to as much as a 844% lift.

Source: Braze